Lots of stories have been written about employees being fired or disciplined for things they posted on social media. A Pennsylvania case is potentially breaking new ground in social media law circles this month, and it’s sending a message that may not be a good one.
A Chipotle employee was fired last year after a battle with management, where he was attempting to organize workers and agitate for better working conditions. On his list of demands were wages and official work breaks. During his battle with management, he tweeted the following to a happy customer who had gotten a free burrito:
Before he was fired, management forced him to delete the tweet, which he did.
The judge in the case ruled that he was incorrectly fired, and ordered Chipotle to pay him back wages and benefits. The judge also ruled that the company acted incorrectly in forcing him to delete the tweet, and that its corporate communications policy unfairly restricted workers’ free speech. The judge stated:
“If you want to tweet something about your personal experience at your job, do it. Tweet at your bosses and your bosses’ bosses. A lot of times your bosses will sugarcoat what’s going on… doing it publicly really puts the spotlight on them.”
So, if you stop short of libel or slander, it is okay to badmouth your employer according to this ruling. Is it a good idea? We don’t think so, unless there is something very dangerous going on.
If you choose to make public, negative comments about your current employer online rather than speaking to someone directly, you aren’t going to make any friends. You might find yourself disciplined or fired for some other offense, or be passed over for promotion.
And, if you do it publicly, you run the risk that any future employer who might consider hiring you will have second thoughts about your loyalty or judgment.
You might be unhappy at the moment, but posting publicly about something as important as your job is adding that comment to your permanent public record. Do you really want that?
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